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Category: Music (page 2 of 4)

Revisiting the Beatles Albums: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

If you read my post about Revolver, you already know that I believe that, despite what many a Rock critic believes, Revolver is the best Beatles album of all time.  In fact, if you stay tuned as I write about the rest of the Beatles catalogue, you’ll find out that I think Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band isn’t even second best. 

That doesn’t mean its not a great album.  It doesn’t mean it it’s not groundbreaking.  It is.  But the the build up of hype around it over the past 40 years is, in my opinion, a bit over the top. 

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One thing did stand out about revisiting Sgt. Peppers, the song “Good Morning, Good Morning” has never sounded so good.  The remastering of it really brought out the the layers in it as well as of the studio produced textures in songs like “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “Lovely Rita”.

My problem with Sgt. Peppers really comes from the fact that its not super listenable straight through.  Every listen has at least one, two, or even 3 songs that you hit the next button on. But the question to ask yourself is this: Are those songs really so boring or is it that I just want to get on to “A Day in the Life”?

“A Day in the Life” has got to be one of the best 10 songs of all time.  There is nothing to hate about it and only things to love. They lyrics provoke thought and by the time you reach the end and the famous final chord, the fade out gives you space to process all those thoughts. Every great song stimulates extreme emotion of one kind or another, “A Day in the Life” just happens to be the one that incorporates 60 seconds of time to allow you to drive deep into the meaning of those emotions. 

Revisiting The Beatles Albums: Revolver

Depending on what day you ask me, Revolver is either my favorite album by The Beatles, one of my 20 favorite albums of all time, or, quite simply, the greatest record I have ever listened to. 

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It is the album that has a little bit of everything.

  • The song that makes a social statement – “Taxman”
  • A fun sing-along with Ringo track – “Yellow Submarine”
  • Majestic fusions of pop and classical music – “Eleanor Rigby”
  • Good old-fashioned rockers: “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “I Want to Tell You”
  • Feel good inspirationals: “Good Day Sunshine” and “Got to Get You Into My Life”
  • Trippy pop psychedila: “Tomorrow Never Knows”

While I can’t go back in time to April 6, 1966, I find it fun to imagine listening to these albums in the context of their time.  Imagine being that Beatles fan who went to the record store on April 6, 1966 to pick up the new record by the Beatles.  You first come face to face with an album cover of unconventional imagery – rich with layers to explore using the naked eye.  You take the album home, unwrap it, pull out the vinyl from the sleeve and stick the needle on song 1 of side 1.  Taxman starts the album off pretty normally by mid-60s rock standards, but that second song…the one with no drums, no bass, and no electric guitar.  The one that sounds like the London Philharmonic invaded it.  About a woman “Wearing a face that she keeps in the jar by the door”.  THAT song.  What the hell would you possibly think about that?  It doesn’t quite hit you.  And you wonder if that’s even a rock and roll song.  Or why is there classical music on a Beatles album.  Whatever you think, you can’t deny that it has impact.  And you can’t deny that is … well, precious.

But that’s the real beauty of Revolver.  Something truly unique and completely different from the song preceding it lurks beyond every 5 second space between tracks.  Imagine being a teenager in 1966…getting lost in side 1 while staring into infinite space at and through that album cover.  “She Said She Said” fades out on side 1 before you even look up and realize what the hell is happening. And what’s happening if your perception of “what is rock music?” has been forever altered. 

By the time you reach the end of side 2, you’ve travelled through about 10 different genres of music.  Including Middle Eastern and Big Band.  And when you reach the end, you are confronted – and I do mean CONFRONTED – with “Tomorrow Never Knows”. 

Hindsight is always 20-20 and we know what tomorrow did bring for The Beatles.  It brought us Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Personally, I find it impossible to listen to “Tomorrow Never Knows” and not think about Sgt. Peppers.  It’s as if there was some grand scheme to the Beatles and the 60’s that I’ll never truly understand.  After all, I wasn’t there. 

Perhaps trying to read too much into the meanings and agenda of the latter half of The Beatles albums is the mistake.  The critical acclaim and symbolic awarding of best album ever to Sgt Peppers always confused me a bit.  Now…understand what Springsteen would tell you: that musicians use music to express an emotion and capture it within a moment of time.  Given that, I suppose you have to use the full context surrounding a album of recorded music in giving it any kind of review.  But at the end of the day, we’re talking about a collection of songs.  And the collection on Revolver always seemed a bit superior to anything else The Beatles did. 

Revisiting The Beatles Albums: Help!

A couple of my favorite Bealtes songs are present on Help!  Not suprisingly, Help! has always gotten plenty of play on my stereo if only so I can listen to “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “Ticket to Ride”.

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I’ve sung karoke one time in my life.  It was a disaster.  I’ve sworn off ever taking the karoke mic ever again.  That is, until I find the karoke bar that has “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” on its playlist.  Then I’ll channel Lennon channeling Dylan, because quite honestly, you only need to be moderately liquored up to do so effectively.  And being moderately liquored up is pretty much a karoke requirement as well.

Favorite lyric

“Here I stand head in hand…”.  From “You’’ve Go to Hide Your Love Away”.  I remember thinking line before the birth of my youngest son.  Keturah had a cesarean delivery and I had to wait in the hall outside the operating room by myself before going in.  It was of the most nervous moment of my life.  I was worried, with head in hands and thought of that song.  I’d like to see Sam Beam of Iron and Wine sing this song.  I bet it would be killer.

Forgotten songs

“Another Girl” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face”.  Both are great songs.  Not listening to either enough.

Memories

I used to own a 45 of “Yesterday”.  The b side was “Act Naturally”.  I wonder if that’s stashed away in a box somewhere in my basement.

Revisiting The Beatles Albums: With the Beatles

Note: This is part 2 in a series of series of posts I’m writing as I listen to the remastered Beatles discography.  See the entire series here. 

I’ve heard that With the Beatles was rushed out by The Beatles’ record company in order to take financial advantage of Beatlemania.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve never listened to it in its entirety before and why many of the songs are R&B covers. 

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Highlight of the Album

“Please Mr. Postman”.  Didn’t the Supremes perform this song?  Song stood out for me thanks to Lennon’s lead vocals.

I had no idea

This album was released on the same day that President Kennedy was shot.

Revisiting The Beatles Albums: Please Please Me

First off, I admit that I’m not an “early Beatles” guy.  I much more preferred the psychedelic influenced explorations that started around Rubber Soul and continued all the way to end.  I doubt that I’ve ever listened to the Please Please Me album straight through more than a couple times and those times it was mostly because my Mom has it in her CD library and when I’m visiting my old home, it’s a logical thing to put on.  But if you’re going to go through the entire Beatles catalogue from start to finish, you have to start at the beginning and that’s Please Please Me.

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This is the first of the remastered albums I’ve listened to and I gotta say…the sound is top-notch.  I’ve never heard these songs sounding so crisp before.  Totally excited to work my way through Beatles history.

Some other thoughts as I listened to Please Please Me …

Best rekindled memory

During “I Saw Her Standing There”, I remembered going to see Paul McCartney at Foxboro Stadium with my Mom around 1990.  When Paul breaks into “I Saw Her Standing There”, my Mom launches out of her seat like a rocket and starts screaming and dancing along.  It was pretty cool. I was 19 years old at the time and seeing my Mom act like a crazed Beatlemania shined some new light on who my Mom was (and still is).

Song I totally forgot about

Track 12 – “A Taste of Honey”.  And by the way I don’t really like writing about these albums and say Track 12.  I’d much refer to things in the vinyl manner – “Side 2, Song 5”

Highlight of the album (for me)

“Twist and Shout”.  So much great energy in that song.  Lots of high school Saturday nights driving around with a car full of friends screaming the lyrics.  By the end you’re doing two things.  Thinking about “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and considering replaying it.

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